Saturday, June 18, 2016
Start: East Flagstaff Rd
End: Rt 201/Caratunk
My shuttle left the motel at 6:45am; we picked up two other hikers and headed out to East Flagstaff Rd, arriving around 7:45am. I hit the trail and made good miles. The miles rolled by much easier today; the terrain was gentle, compared to most of the rest of Maine.
Before noon, I was hiking when I heard a LOT OF crashing through the underbrush up ahead as something large ran to the left, away from the trail. Given the rough size and amount of noise, I figured it was yet another moose (I saw two on my drive up to Maine and then two more during my shuttles yestersay). There were three SOBOs and one of them asks me “Did you see the bear?!” Apparently, the bear had bluff charged him and then run into the bushes. I’m glad the bear was as interested in us as we were in it.
Today involved a lot of water features – East Flagstaff Lake, Jerome Brook, West Carry Pond, Sandy Stream, East Carry Pond, Carrying Place Stream, Pierce Pond, Pierce Pond Stream, Otter Pond Stream, and the Kennebec River. I also passed by West Carry Pond Lean-to and Pierce Pond Lean-to. I stopped at Pierce Pond Lean-to for approximately half an hour to relax, eat snacks, and chat with other hikers.
Over the course of the day, I saw 25 SOBO thru-hikers, two trail maintainers, and two NOBO section hikers (one doing Bennington, VT to Katahdin; the other, Harpers Ferry to Katahdin to complete a flip flop thru hike started last year). Two of the SOBOS I chatted were from Western Mass; one of them looked familiar to me. I may have seen her around town before.
The last two-tenths of a mile of my hike were rather eventful. I arrived at the Kennebec River at 5pm, expecting to find a cowbell to ring, per the instructions of my ferry ride. I tried to find service all day to call to confirm my arrival time, without success (I found myself thinking i should have . Despite arranging it beforehand, the ferry wasn’t present.
To those who do not know, fording is prohibited at the Kennebec River – partly because of its size and depth and partly there’s a hydroelectric dam upstream that intermittently releases water. The river can rise 4-6 feet in a matter of minutes. The ATC provides a free ferry, but it’s entirely dependant on the season; right now, it’s set up for south bound hikers and only runs 9-11am.
No one was there or in view. I ranged up and down the river bank looking for service, without success. I tried yelling, banging rocks together, and whistling across the river, all to no avail. I waved my arms and hat… no one showed up. I waited until 6pm, getting more and more anxious. The official, free ferry wouldn’t arrive until 9am the next day; my shuttle would be at the road (0.2 miles away from the river) at 6pm. No one was going to come looking for me. If I couldn’t get across the river, I would have to spend the night there in all likelihood, with no overnight gear. Oh, and camping on the river bank isn’t allowed, for what it’s worth.
So I packed all my gear into my daypack’s main pocket, putting my hat, water bottles, and hiking poles inside. I started and stopped a few times before going for it. I swam across the river. There was no fording to be had; it was far too deep for that. I’m glad I packed away my poles; they would have seriously hindered me. I managed to get across the river safely. It was a good thing it was a daypack. If it was an overnight pack, I don’t know that I would have made it. I arrived on the other side, dripping wet, exhausted, and shaking. I squeezed as much water as I could out of my backpack and headed for the road. My ride arrived within 5 minutes of me getting to the road.
I’m glad I traversed the river successfully; I would not say I’m proud. I feel like I was stuck between a rock and a hard place and did the only thing I could think to do. I would strongly recommend hikers follow the postings at the river, especially if you have a full backpack. The Kennebec River is no joke.